How to Remove Swirl Marks

Learning how to remove swirl marks will prove difficult enough on its own. But when the industry can't even agree on what swirl marks are, then you know you are in for even more effort!

Based on your audience you ask, you will be delivered a different answer to what swirl marks are, never mind learning what is the best way to remove swirl marks in your car paint.

can polish remove these swirl marks

Removing Swirl Marks:
What you need to know

  • What you call them doesn't really matter
  • How to remove swirl marks permanently
  • Swirl marks in clear coat vs. car paint
  • The one big thing nobody talks about (hard vs soft)
  • The best polish for removing swirl marks

These are the specifics I will cover with you if you within this page. I want you to have a fighting chance if you have swirl marks on your car and you are ready to do something about them.

Swirl Marks, Holograms, Buffer Tracks, Spider Webbing:
Why it doesn't matter what you call them

This industry can't seem to ever exist on the same page regardless of the topic.

You went searching how to remove swirl marks, but the reality is that what you call swirl marks, may actually be something else to the very person you are asking.

The good news is that regardless of what you call them -swirl marks, holograms, spider webbing- doesn't actually matter since the solution is the same for all those problems.

But since you are here, I will set the record straight -at least as straight as possible.

difference between swirl marks and hologramsThis "effect" as seen on the side of this car is a direct result of improper use of a rotary car polisher. In the professional world, this "pattern" is called swirl marks. But this pattern is also referred to as buffer tracks and holograms.

As far as any non-professional goes -car owner, car enthusiast, wanna-be-detailer- they will refer to the pattern shown in the first picture at the top of this page as swirl marks.

Which you may look at and consider an obvious reason -swirled effect caused by scratches in the car paint.

Which is why I understand the confusion with people, but I also understand the miscommunication when people are looking for a specific answer to the swirl mark problem.

Just know that regardless of the pattern in your car, regardless of what you want to call them, the solution to your "swirl mark" problem is the same as any other paint defect.

How to Remove Swirl Marks:
Temporary, semi-permanent, permanent

When it comes to most paint defects that you will encounter as a car owner, the solution will always be the same:

"You have to scratch your way to success"

If you are a complete beginner, this will sound like a very strange piece of advice.

As strange as that may sound, that is exactly what is required when it comes to a permanent fix for your car paint problems:

  • Car paint scratches
  • Swirl marks
  • Holograms
  • Buffer tracks
  • Spider webbing

This same strategy that is used in many other areas of life -think sanding wood here- is the same strategy that must be used to fix most imperfections in your car paint.

What this literally means to you as a car owner is that you will need some type of product that has been made with abrasive particles that allow you to scratch your way to success.

how to remove swirl marksThis image shows a clear line of distinction between the area containing heavy swirl marks and the area that has been polished to remove swirl marks.

The abrasive particles will "refine" the paint surface by putting extremely small scratches in your paint as you use this product to scratch your way to a better version with your car paint than what you currently have.

But many people operate on the bare minimum plan and want an easy fix for swirl marks in a car. Which is why you have options.

But each option comes with trade-offs.

Temporary Fix: you can use a quality car wax to help conceal and hide the swirl mark effect, but this is not only temporary, but car wax to fix swirl marks will prove virtually ineffective.

Semi-Permanent Fix: your next option that many people will default to will be a polishing compound of some kind. Or perhaps a rubbing compound. But you probably don't know the difference between a rubbing compound and a polish to begin with.

The industry itself doesn't seem to know the difference either. Some companies have rubbing compounds with no abrasives, while other companies have "basic" polish with mild abrasives in them.

There simply is no standardization within this industry. This means that regardless of the topic, you will be forced to wade through lots of hype, bad information, and marketing.

Most beginners are naturally afraid of doing any additional damage to their car paint and accept that a car wax will not remove swirl marks, so they reach for what they consider to be a "safe" alternative. Some type of polish that has been glorified with marketing jargon and seductive packaging.

But the reality is that many of the retail "polishes"  -regardless of how they are labeled- don't have any type of abrasives to them. These same products will tell you how they can help diminish paint imperfections or paint scratches or even swirl marks, but ultimately prove completely ineffective due to the fact that they have no abrasives to them.

Since these type of polishes/compounds rely on chemicals to perform the "polishing", they will prove to deliver slightly better result than a basic car wax which is why I put these types of products under semi-permanent -more "permanent" than car wax to remove swirl marks, but far less-permanent than a product with actual abrasives.

Permanent Fix: as stated above, the only real answer of how to remove swirl marks will be using some type of product that has abrasives that allow you to scratch your way to success.

Think of car polishing like you would sanding wood: sandpaper to sand away material to create a better surface. Car polishing is simply done with much finer types of abrasives that have been "suspended" in a type of product like a polish, polishing compound, or a rubbing compound.

The more you rub or polish, the more "refined" the surface becomes, and the more the swirl marks and other paint defects are removed.

Swirl Marks in Clear Coat vs. Car Paint

There are certain subjects of this industry that automatically produce additional questions. The difference between clear coat and car paint is just one example and is often one of the immediate questions following how to remove swirl marks.

Are you trying to remove swirl marks in clear coat or car paint?

Is there really a difference between clear coat and car paint?

What exactly is the difference between clear coat and car paint?

The good news!

The good news is that when it comes to removing swirl marks, it doesn't actually matter if your car has clear coat or car paint. In most cases, they are simply different terms to describe the same material -or more precisely- the same surface: the top surface of any car.

But to bring additional understanding to you in this moment: any original factory applied paint finish will have clear coat as the top layer. Which means that learning how to remove swirl marks in clear coat is the same as learning how to remove swirl marks in car paint.

You have to "scratch your way to success" regardless of what the top layer of your car has on it. I can assure you that if your car was made in the last 20 years, that in 99.9% of every case you will have clear coat as the top layer on your car.

How to Remove Swirl Marks:
The one thing nobody teaches

If you are following along, you will know that you need a product with abrasives in it for you to remove swirl marks. The problem is two-fold:

  • No two products are alike (polishes, compounds, polishing compounds, etc.)
  • No clear coat is alike (hard clears, soft clears, water based clears, solvent based clears)

There are literally countless car polishes, compounds, rubbing compounds, and polishing compounds. No two are identical.

Every product will have unique qualities (uncountable degrees of excellence), and unique features (characteristics that make them distinguishable)

The same holds true with clear coats. There really is such a thing as soft clear coats and hard clear coats. What this means is that some swirl marks will be easier to remove than other swirl marks based entirely on the clear coat itself -regardless of product chosen to remove the swirl marks.

Most companies will promote the "unique" features of their products, or even attempt to quantify the "quality" of their products, but never have I seen a single company attempt to educate you as a car owner regarding this one critical factor that really isn't a single thing, but a combination factor.

But it is within this combination of "moving parts" -product choice and clear coat type- that will determine success. Since most of you reading this will be a beginner, you will be working on very limited knowledge, and with little to no actual experience.

This means your expectations will be unique to you and your knowledge, and along with your experience level.

This becomes problematic since you will not have experience to make any comparisons. If you have the misfortune of having a car with very hard clear coat and you are attempting to learn how to remove swirl marks, you will become discouraged right out of the gate and likely assign blame onto the product of choice, or perhaps on the source that you went to initially to learn how to remove swirl marks.

Best Polish to Remove Swirl Marks

The best polish to remove swirl marks will be ANY compound or polish so long as it has abrasives. But with that said...

that is a massive oversimplification.

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